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Program Staff Needs for Community Paramedicine Programs

The roles and responsibilities of community paramedics are different from those of a paramedic responding to emergency 911 calls. Many people who work as emergency medical technicians (EMTs) or paramedics are drawn to work in high-intensity, adrenaline-producing situations. Conversely, community paramedics are engaged in providing primary care services and helping patients live their everyday lives. When recruiting staff, programs should ensure that candidates recognize the difference and are committed to this new type of position.

Community paramedics can also be set up for success through clearly defined roles and responsibilities, both in direct work with patients and knowing when to connect patients with local services or organizations. These responsibilities will also include managing reporting requirements needed to track patients and program activities. Reporting may be done digitally through an electronic health record (EHR) system or through specific emergency medical service (EMS) platforms.

Most community paramedics are deeply dedicated to their patients and their work. However, as with any position that involves direct patient care, burnout can be a concern. Programs may consider including annual compassion fatigue training for their community paramedics to mitigate the chance of employee turnover.

In communities without the resources to dedicate one or more staff to full-time work as a community paramedic, some programs have switched their existing paramedics to part-time duty responding to emergency calls in order to free up time for home visiting. However, for full-volunteer agencies or EMS programs currently experiencing high turnover rates in their emergency response staff, a community paramedicine program may result in additional strain on scarce resources dedicated to emergency medical response. These programs should consider strengthening their staffing before adding a community paramedicine function.

Seasonal volunteers and paramedics on light duty can help supplement program operations for busy community paramedics. Additionally, having someone on staff who is responsible for coordinating community paramedics' schedules and available to answer calls from patients will promote a successful program since community paramedics are typically busy day to day with patient visits, follow-up, and documentation. Programs using volunteers for these roles should ensure all team members have received Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) training on patient privacy. They should also establish policies and protocols about patient assistance practices and personal safety.